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A young witch comes of age
I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: Stewwydablue
I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett
Advantages: Another book from Terry Pratchett that is of a very high standard
Disadvantages: The younger reader label may put some off
Don't worry if you haven't read any of the other three preceding books about Tiffany Aching as there's enough in the way of explanations in this installment to enable you to catch up and follow what's going on. The title of this particular book, "I shall wear midnight" comes about when Tiffany is asked why, if she is a witch, does she not wear black. She replies that she will only wear midnight when she is old.
Tiffany is doing the things that witches do (helping the old and infirm by rubbing ointment onto hard to reach bad backs, easing the suffering of those on death's door and in Tiffany's case, being very good at making cheese) when gradually, she notices a change for the worse in peoples' perceptions towards her and witching in general.
She discovers that this has come about by the re-emergence of an evil spirit - a spirit who belonged to a crazed and over zealous witch hunter a very long time ago. Every few hundred years this spirit comes back at times when people's memories have forgotten that witches used to be a force for evil and were to be persecuted and executed, as opposed to the important community spirited people they are today. Feeding on peoples' hate and fear, the spirit amplifies those two emotions and directs "the mob" to hunt the ladies with the pointy hats.
Tiffany must stop this, and seems to have been singled out by the spirit called the Cunning Man, who intends to kill Tiffany first then as many other witches as he can. In order to fight the Cunning Man, Tiffany must use some top class cunning of her own. Is she still a young girl incapable of showing the maturity required to banish the spirit of the Cunning Man, or will she develop into the great witch many tip her to become and save both herself and her sister witches?
I reckon "I shall wear midnight" is as good as any of the other Discworld related books, not including the Colour of Magic as I've always thought that was too random and crowded and a disjointed read. The story line is very strong, reinforced along the way by a few recurring themes that all join together at the end of the story to make sense in a way that had me thinking "of course, why didn't I see that?". For example there is a continual reference to "the hare jumps into the flames" - read the book and it will be a eurake moment for you when you discover how it is meant.
You may be aware that over the last few years Mr Pratchett has been coping with a form of dimensure - good luck to him in that fight and as far as I can see there's no sign of his usually high standard of work slipping in this book, published in 2010.
As with all the characters he populates Discworld with, the characters in this book are very colourful, intricate and come to life off the pages by their sheer realism. One of the things for me about Pratchett's writing is that makes him so good is the fact that he creates these characters in a fantasy world which are very easy to relate to, given the surrealism of their surroundings. For example, in this book you've got people who we all have an acquiantance in real life that is very similar - Nanny Ogg, the life and soul of a party and a loveable rogue and Roland, the son of a great man who struggles to be as respected as their father, can make a bit of a mess of how they deal with people but essentially mean no harm. I hope other Pratchett fans agree that he can make a character real in an unreal setting (Discworld is a disc shaped planet that sits on the shoulders of four giant elephants who in turn are standing on the back of a space travelling turtle called Great A'Tuin) and does this very convincingly.
Tiffany, the lead character is a reflection of most of us when we were at that awkward stage in teenage years when we're standing on ridge with childhood on one side and scary adulthood on the other and are pushed firmly off the side marked "grown ups only". This book is classed as being for young readers. I would say that it works on more than just this one level - my four year old would enjoy being read this story at bedtime as I think that the antics of the unruly Nac Mac Feegles would appeal to her, my eight year old would be gripped by what is, for an eight year old, a tale of great peril being faced up to by a girl who won't appear to her as ancient as distant as I do which I think would help her relate to the story and take it at face value. Also, I think that when my now eight year old daughter herself is at that stage in her life just like Tiffany is between being a child and becoming a young woman that she will get a lot more from the book in terms of comparisons between her life and the life and trials of Tiffany, rather than it just being a damn good story.
As for me, if Terry Pratchett re-wrote the phone book then I'd lap it up cover to cover. I've only got Snuff and Dodger to go then I've read all of his work. So, with that bias in mind you shouldn't be surprised that I give this book the full five stars. Bias aside though, even with the "younger reader" label I was gripped and entertained in equal measures when reading it, and I'm in my mid thirties, so don't be put off by the younger reader tag. It's currently available on Amazon £5.24 as a paperback, a quite steep £18.99 for the hardback version and £4.74 as one of those candle things that you can't display proudly on a shelf or bookcase. Thanks for reading.
Summary: the fourth book featuring Tiffany Aching set in Discworld